Thursday, November 24, 2011

4 Astounding Mobile Stats

iPhone in hand image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
Cells phones are now a way of life nearly everywhere on the planet, and mobile communications has totally changed the world as we know it. As smartphones become more and more of a factor in our media consumption, here are some astounding facts about mobile from MobileRoadie CEO Michael Schneider
  • On average, we check our phones 150 times a day.
  • Four people are born a second; 39 mobile phones are sold a second.
  • There are presently 5.5 billion-plus mobile users -- smartphones users comprise 21% of them.
  • iPhone users spend 90-plus minutes per day on apps.
 I must be the exception to the above, as I'm pretty sure I don't check my iPhone more than 100 times a day. I know for a fact that I don't spend much more than an hour on phone apps either (a big tongue in cheek here). All that said, it seems like these numbers will only increase in the future, which is why it's a good idea to never forget mobile when designing your online strategy.
You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Pete Townshend Lecture - Part 2

Pete Townshend on stage image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
Here's Part 2 of the lecture The Who's legendary Pete Townshend gave at the BBC in honor of the iconic DJ John Peel. Like Part 1, it's about the value of music, the new music business, and how the musician fits into it. As always, Pete has a learned and scholarly take.

Pete Townshend:
"What creative people want is to know their music has been heard. They would prefer a response that was constructive than a positive or negative review. They would prefer expertise to opinion. They would like to know the public if they had a chance to hear the music, also had a chance to make up their own minds. They would prefer that in the long term the public were willing to pay for their music. But looking at the John Peel model, what is clear is that just knowing there was a chance the great man would listen, react and offer the music on air, for whatever reason, was enough for budding musicians and bands.

That is where we must be going. Musicians need to be heard, to be judged, if possible to be paid, but also allowed to believe they had more than a single chance to get a hit. Software systems that offer this model will survive and prevail – loved and embraced by musicians of every sort – whatever happens financially.

Whether the public listen or not, creative writers and musicians should get paid if their work generates money by virtue of its mere existence on radio, television, YouTube, Facebook or SoundCloud. It’s tricky to argue for the innate value of copyright from a position of good fortune – as I do. I once suggested on a forum that people who download my music without paying for it may as well come and steal my son’s bike while they’re at it. One woman was so incensed that she tried to argue that she was still supporting me as an artist by “sharing” – my parentheses – music with others who would eventually filter down some cash in some form or other to me, that would pay for my son’s bike – and she was not, in any sense, a thief or a criminal. I think she was in a kind of denial. Cutting the body to fit the cloth rather than the correct way around.

We now live in a digital world in which the only absolute is work by the hour. Lawyers, accountants, doctors, nurses, plumbers, painters, truck drivers, farmers, pilots, cleaners, actors, musicians – they all get paid for work done as a clock ticks.

Creative work is not like that. Any one of the people listed above could create a method that would help other people to do their job in their place. This could be digitized, and made available on the Internet. I have given away dozens of my trade secrets in this way, knowing that I could afford to do so, but also knowing that my trade secrets are also trademarks in a way – I have become known for a particular style of creativity that belongs to me, because I am its principle practitioner.

However, if someone pretends to be me, or pretends that something I have created should be available to them free – because creativity has less value than an hour’s work by me as a musician in a pub – I wonder what has gone wrong with human morality and social justice.

When we look at wars we often find ourselves reverting to simple epithets: why can’t people just get along? Vivre les differénces! So it would be better if music lovers treated music like food, and paid for every helping, rather than only when it suited them. Why can’t music lovers just pay for music rather than steal it?

Would a return to John Peelism be better? There must have been music lovers who recorded his shows to tape and shared copies with friends. But it was never that easy, and was very time-consuming. You had to be really passionate about some music to share it in this way. Yes I think it would be better if music lovers had to work a little harder to find what they like best, and it was not quite so easy to knock out a digital copy to one’s friends. The word “sharing” surely means giving away something you have earned, or made, or paid for? At least you should have searched for it, and not simply happened on it by chance – or apparent chance, the newly intelligent Internet is now capable of sending you things that you never thought you wanted. It would be better if these “sharers” had to set aside time to listen, and to work at listening, and thereby do honor to the creative work of musicians even if their final judgment was that the music they heard was not for them – not worth stealing, not worth sharing.

Now I’m being facetious, but some things are really worth stealing. A creative person would prefer their music to be stolen and enjoyed than ignored. This is the dilemma for every creative soul: he or she would prefer to starve and be heard, than to eat well and be ignored.

Radio is not like Internet radio, or torrent sites. Radio pays musicians a fee when music is aired. Radio does not take the position that the public has a right to decide after hearing the music played whether to pay for it or not. Radio stations pay, and the public pay directly or indirectly in order to listen and make the judgment.

Suppose you asked a painter to paint your house on condition that if you didn’t like the color you had chosen, thinking it would work, you wouldn’t pay him?

Peel was not a musician. He was a listener, a patron of the arts, a broadcaster with almost no censorial mandate or agenda. He only played what he thought deserved to be played. I don’t think it always mattered that he himself liked it. In China in Chairman Mao’s day he might have been sent to prison if only for being the first to play Jesus and Mary Chain, the Undertones or the Proclaimers – all of them were a little bit political, but also radical and outspoken. When I first heard them on John’s show I thought they were a bit dangerous.

So if we assume that musicians want more than anything to be heard, and that there is now a massive audience wanting to hear new music every day, what is next?

What’s next is already here. The BBC will not be thankful to me for saying this but if you have a decent computer and some Internet bandwidth there are dozens of amazing Internet portals where you can hear new music, and see new videos. SoundCloud, HypeRadio, Cull.TV, Spotify and all offer to take you on an extraordinary journey if you log in. Today, the era and scope of modern music stretches broadly over a range of music styles, nationalities and age-ranges that might threaten to obfuscate the artistic achievements of individual musicians. Sorry, I mentioned the art word. We might be overwhelmed by the amount of variation – especially without a John Peel to bring us up to speed every week. But a quick look at the way the Internet has enriched the investigation of any particular musician’s work can be proved by the expediency of searching – just to suggest a deliberately quirky example – “Bjork” in Last.FM or Spotify. Along with all of Bjork’s many bands and collaborations, we find the band Garbage, Tori Amos, mùm, Planning to Rock, Sigur Ros, Bat for Lashes and Fever Ray. They all line up to confuse and entice. Even iTunes might take you off on a strange, inspiring or disturbing journey if you search the appropriately left-field artist.

If you search my name you’re likely to be spoon-fed tracks by Dave Dee, Dozy, Mick & Tich. This is the cross that Dave Dee etc. has to bear, being compared with The Who on Internet search engines.

What the BBC has to rise to is the challenge of using some its resources to sidestep editorial censorship, and give the listeners the kind of license they got when they tuned into John Peel. That license is offered free or almost free on dozens of amazing music blogs, sharing websites and video sites. There is more music being made today, and made ready for broadcasting, webcasting, podcasting and sharing, than ever before. I mean by this, finished, well-produced, good sounding music. And if it doesn’t sound good you can be fairly sure it isn’t meant to. There is a lot of talk about live music, and it is great that it’s seen to be so important – but it’s never gone away. In fact The Who shared the bill with John Peel once or twice, he took his radio show on the road regularly in the Sixties and Seventies. If the BBC were to start a website like Spotify, one thing would be certain – the musicians who were featured would get paid.

Speaking of which: my £6 fee for this lecture is being passed to the Musicians Union Benevolent Fund."
You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Pete Townshend Lecture - Part 1

Current Pete Townshend image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blogThe BBC recently invited The Who's Pete Townshend to give a lecture in honor of influential UK broadcaster John Peel, a DJ who's musical taste and integrity helped shape music as we know it.

There's been a lot written about this speech that makes for some good old fashioned negative headlines, but there's a lot more beneath the surface if you read the whole thing since you'll find that this lecture is particularly insightful about music as it is today, not how it was. This is not about the creation of music, but how an artist today relates to the music business.

The transcript of the lecture is a bit long so I've broken it up into two parts. Whether you like him or not, it's worth every minute of your time.

Pete Townsend:
"Firstly, I’m honored to have been asked to do this first lecture in the name of John Peel. John and I were never close friends, and I know he was not always an unconditional Who fan, but through his long-time producer John Walters – who was a great friend to me and to Who drummer Keith Moon – I followed John Peel’s career with the sense of a family insider. I don’t want to kick off this series of annual lectures with any po-faced intellectualism. Nor do I want to talk about pop music as art – hard for me because music as art is my favorite subject. Neither do I wish to try to make this lecture amusing, or light-hearted or even ironic in the tradition of the sixties and post sixties pop era Peely and I shared. I don’t want to try to celebrate John Peel, nor make this into any kind of memorial. That’s all been done. So what do I want to do?

I have limited time. Looking at what John Peel did with his show on radio for many years is worth looking at. But I must assume that most listeners will know what he did. Annie Nightingale once told me that John was one of the few deejays at Radio 1 who would take home everything left in the in-tray cubbyholes at the end of each week. More than that, he listened to it all. Sometimes he played some records that no one else would ever have played, and that would never be played on radio again. But he listened, and he played a selection of records in the course of each week that his listeners knew – partly because the selection was sometimes so insane – proved he was genuinely engaged in his work as an almost unconditional conduit between creative musicians to the radio audience.

So he listened. And he took chances with what he played.

And he is gone.

Why was John Peel’s system important? Why is listening important? Why is being ready to give space to less polished music important? Will John Peelism survive the internet? Or is John Peelism thriving on the internet without many of us realizing it?

So we have John Peel. The BBC. And – for the purposes of this lecture – iTunes. All enormous icons in music.

Let me introduce you briefly to my inner artist, then I will put him back in his box.
'I don’t give a shit about making money. I think rock music is junk. I am a genius. The Who were OK but without me they would have all ended up working in the flower market, or worse – in Led Zeppelin. John Peel played some records that were so bad that I thought he was taking the piss sometimes. The BBC only gave us Pop Radio 1 in the ‘60s, five years after the Pirates had proved there was an audience for it. Sadly, unlike the pirates, they didn’t accept payola.'

I really should put this inner artist guy back in his box yes? Have we got our newspaper headlines yet?

This inner artist really doesn’t give a shit about any of this lecture. Just give him a piano and a guitar and some decent way to record the music, a pleasant room to work in, and a few free hours, and he is happy. When he’s done he hands me the end product and says – there, a work of genius, try and live off it for a while you philistine.

It seems to me that a conversation between my inner artist with the late Steve Jobs would have been impossible. I seem to remember that once in an interview I let my artist out of the box for a minute too long and he said he wanted to cut Job’s balls off. As I force my artist back in the box again, I hear him say that in fact he really likes his iPad and loves to noodle with GarageBand. My inner artist is a bit of an ageing Mod you see. He really thinks the late Steve Jobs was one of the coolest guys on the planet: loved his black outfits, cut his balls off, look at my red Vespa – irrational.

So there was Pirate Radio, then Radio 1, then a music shop. There were record companies and music publishers. Was it good, what the God of pop music had created?

Music publishing has always been a form of banking in many ways, but – in cooperation with record labels – active artists have always received from the music industry banking system more than banking. They’ve gotten: 1. editorial guidance; 2. financial support; 3. creative nurture; 4. manufacturing; 5. publishing; 6. marketing; 7. distribution; 8. payment of royalties – the banking.

Today, if we look solely at iTunes, we see a publishing model that offers only the last two items as a guarantee – distribution and banking – with some marketing thrown in sometimes at the whim of the folks at Apple. It’s a fantastic piece of software, I use it all the time and I was honored once to meet the woman who wrote the software. But iTunes is not like radio.

Radio is less driven by cash flow, a little more driven by secondary income streams – like advertising, subscriptions, or in the case of the BBC, license fees – and thus needs its pop music to be cool, look hip, cover a wide array of bases and satisfy a broad market.

Let me quickly go over this list again. Now is there really any good reason why, just because iTunes exists in the Wild West Internet land of Facebook and Twitter, it can’t provide some aspect of these services to the artists whose work it bleeds like a digital vampire Northern Rock for its enormous commission?

Let’s talk it through.

Item 1. Editorial guidance. A&R. Employ 20 A&R people from the dying record business. Have them respond to tracks sent in from new artists. If they feel the artists are bad, or aren’t ready, say so. But have them tell the truth, kindly and constructively. Guide them to other helpful resources, don’t just send them to the wolves of Blogland where it seems to me a lot of the vilest bile comes from people who could be drunk, or just nuts. A fledgling musician at the start of a career is a delicate thing . Even a rapper – you’ll just have to take my word for that. Apple do already have back-room people assessing what’s hot, but they don’t have this kind of power. I’ll bet they’d love it. Twenty John Peels inside Apple – imagine it.

Item 2. Financial support. Subsequently provide free computers with music software to 500 artists a year who the 20 A&R people feel merit it. Provide some basic training.

Item 3. Creative nurture. Follow the work of these 500 artists very carefully. Help where you can. Keep out of the way if necessary.

Item 4. Manufacturing. This should be called “posting” today I suppose. Provide a place on iTunes where these artists can share their music. It should be a like a local radio station. Yes Apple, give artists some streaming bandwidth. It will sting, but do it. You will get even more aluminum solid state love for doing so.

Item 5. Publishing. Help artists protect their copyrights, don’t just exploit the loopholes of grand theft. This is a minefield today. The Internet is destroying copyright as we know it. So they will lose the battle, but guide them to hang on to what they can. Otherwise they might only ever make one album.

Item 6. Marketing. Select a number of the artists on the free shared space local radio station and sell their work on iTunes with some helpful advertising within the Apple software machine. Show that you get behind them.

Item 7. Distribution. Go further. License the best selling artists to other organizations – like record companies, bookshops and high street and mall-based retailers for example – who are willing to make packages, goods you can hold in your hands and give for birthdays, Christmas and Diwali. Share revenue with Amazon. I’m not sure why that notion is so repellent to the Aluminums.

Item 8. Payment. Stop insisting on aggregators to deal with small artists – because you can’t be bothered with the expense of accounting for the numerous small amounts of money you’ve collected on their behalf – and pay direct. Why should an artist pay even more commission to an aggregator merely to get paid? For the uninformed, an aggregator in the iTunes world is a company who stands between the artist and iTunes and thus prevents Apple having to deal with artists directly. Some of these aggregators provide some of the resources I’ve pleaded for above, but they are really just another form of punitive banking.

So what does my inner artist think of all that? Doesn’t he give a shit? I can tell you now, he thinks all that sounds really amazing. He wants to cry. If Apple do even one of the things on my wish-list he will offer to cut off his own balls –they’ve only ever been a distraction after all."

Tomorrow, Part 2.
You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

Monday, November 21, 2011

How We Currently Discover Music

NARM logo image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
Music business association NARM and leading market research company The NPD Group recently released findings of a joint study that examined the ways consumers discover new music. The study was conducted in August 2011. There were a number of surprising elements in this study.
  • More than 80 percent of all respondents were interested in learning about new music from artists they were already fans of, and 60 percent were interested in learning about unfamiliar artists in genres that they usually buy.
  • AM/FM radio and family/friends/coworkers are the most common avenues for discovery, and discovery via online radio and
  • Web videos were also important for the most active music fans.

  • Free online radio, video sites like YouTube and Vevo, and other emerging forms of influence are more likely to cause listeners to continue to stream songs, rather than buy them.
  • Music recommendation from family, friends and co-workers are also very important, as they always have been.
What's more, the report breaks down music consumers into five segments:

Committed: the youngest group, with a mean age of 32 (20 percent are age 13 to 17; 42 percent are 18 to 35).  They represent 10 percent of all consumers who listened to or purchased music within the prior three months. “Committed” consumers also account for 46 percent of per-capita spending on music, and they are the most engaged consumers in the report. While they use a variety of discovery sources – including radio, video, streaming, and movies – they also value ownership, and they are the most open to discovering new artists. They find their current means to discover new music is good, but still wonder if they are missing something.

Convert: makes up 30 percent of musically active consumers and accounts for 34 percent of per-capita spending. They're the second youngest group, with a mean age of 34 (13 percent teens; 23 percent are 18 to 25 years old). They also listen to music in a variety of ways and are more likely than the average consumer to purchase CDs or digital downloads. They are generally satisfied with their means of music discovery, but they would still consider other options.

Comfortable: makes up 30 percent of musically active consumers and account for 15 percent of per-capita spending on music. With a mean age of 50, they are considered the mainstream segment. These individuals mostly listen to music on CD or on AM/FM radio, and they prefer to discover new music from familiar artists. They also rely primarily on television and radio to find new music, and they feel those methods are adequate for their needs; they are not interested in new ways to discover music.

Casual: makes up 14 percent of musically active listeners and account for 3 percent of per-capita music spending, and have a mean age of 43. They are also lighter listeners than average, they rarely buy music, and they have low interest in digital sources and discovery.

Content: makes up 11 percent of musically active consumers and accounts for 2 percent of per-capita music spending, have a mean age of 55. They are the lightest buyers and listeners, and while they periodically buy CDs, they do not find current music engaging.
Another interesting thing that the study found is that television has emerged as the second-most influential tool for music discovery, with 49 percent of musically active consumers citing it as a top influence. Television is particularly effective for targeting the mainstream “Comfortable” group, as well as women and brick-and-mortar store shoppers. Awards shows, music videos, competition shows, daytime TV, and serial shows are the programs most likely to be effective for music discovery.

But guess what? Television was trumped by AM/FM radio, which continues to remain as the most important tool for music discovery, with 60 percent of musically active consumers citing it as a top influence.

While radio and TV were the clear-cut top traditional choices for music discovery, Internet music-discovery options are much more fragmented. Shazam and other song-ID apps, as well as other mobile/tablet apps, are most likely to lead to high-value actions, like paying for a CD or digital download.

What's the upshot? Some things never change, and that includes the way we discover music. What is changing is that now we have more sources and which groups uses those additional sources. Once again, conventional wisdom is set on its ear.
You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Online Music Store Showdown

Now that Google Music has finally officially launched on the back of iCloud, we can finally get down to the business of the online music business. Here's a chart form Huffpost Tech that outlines the features of the big 3 online music stores: Amazon MP3, iTunes and Google Music.

Who will win? I think that in the near future, iTunes will be hard to beat, but their market share will erode with time as Google Music gains some traction. Plus you can't beat the fact that they're the only one with an easy to use desktop app (which is what iTunes rally is - the front end to the digital music store).

Online Music Store Showdown graphic image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog

We'll revisit this chart in a few months when the numbers are in to see how they stack up against each other market-share wise.
You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.


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